Reinventing The Steel: Dimebag Darrell’s SH-13 Dimebucker

Pantera and Damageplan’s Dimebag Darrell was one of a kind. At a time when many players were using rack systems or tube heads to achieve warm, smooth tones, he blasted out of Texas with a jagged, aggressive sound based on a solid state amplifier, an EQ and a hell of a lot of attitude. As he refined his equipment needs, Dimebag put the results of his discoveries and preferences into various pieces of signature gear. And the SH-13 Dimebucker was a key part of his search for the ultimate metal tone.

Darrell originally used heavily modified Dean guitars, but that company underwent ownership changes in the late 80s and the guitars he liked were becoming hard to find, so he switched to Washburn (he would eventually switch back to Dean and would work closely with them to develop several signature instruments). The pickup he’d previously been using was also becoming harder and harder to find, and he’d been using a custom-wound version called the XXL-500 which was not available to the public, but it still wasn’t quite doing it for him. So it was time to go on a tone quest.

Dime needed something which would work well with his rig and established sound, as well as with the new Washburn guitars he’d begun using. He wanted a pickup with high output and lots of gain, but he was unhappy with everything he tried. Pickups geared towards distortion were too distorted to achieve the clarity of tone he was after, but cleaner pickups were too thin. He needed something with a thick low end and powerful highs. He also wanted a pickup that would clean up nicely when the guitar’s volume knob was rolled back.

After Darrell hooked up with Seymour Duncan, he sent one of his old pickups to use as a starting point, but he wasn’t looking for a reproduction: this was his chance to have his pickup made his way. From there a few samples were sent out to evaluate on the road in a particular Washburn dedicated to the task.

The result was the Dimebucker, a pickup which gave Dime the ‘smushies’ he was looking for: the Dime-ism he used to describe a sound where the notes ‘smushed together’ in power chords, with a sponge-like feel and bright but not brittle high end.

Various magnets, wire gauges, numbers of turns and other factors were used in the development of the Dimebucker. The final result is based on the combination of a ceramic magnet and stainless steel blades. It has a DC resistance of 16.25 k and a resonant peak at 5.1 KHz, which combine to give it the treble kick and low-end smush Darrell was after. The blades help to maintain the strength of the note over the duration of bends, since there’s always a constant magnetic field under the string: it doesn’t dip or change in between pole pieces.

The Dimebucker pairs especially well with a ’59 model in the neck position, which was Dimebag’s preferred setup. And in true metal style, it’s available in any colour you want. As long as it’s black.

Further reading:

Lisa Sharken interviews Dimebag Darrell

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  • http://www.dregstudios.com Brandt Hardin

    Dimebag was taken from us all too soon but his off-stage
    antics and face-melting guitar shredding will ring out through generations to
    come. The world lost a true prodigy of
    metal from this insane murder. I’m a
    huge fan myself and this year for the anniversary of his passing, drew a new
    portrait of Darrell on my artist’s blog and made a head-banging tribute video
    for this dearly departed God of Rock which you can watch at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/12/dimebag-darrell-tribute-video.html

  • Six-String Samurai

    The original pickup Dime used was a Bill Lawrence L500XL, not “XXL500″ – you should probably get the details right, it IS after all the pickup that the Dimebucker was based on ;)

    • JaeSwift

      They are saying Bill Lawrence made a version called the XXL 500 that was not available to the public; AKA it is different from the L500XL, hence the name ”XXL”.

      • ElvisNinja

        Yes. Somewhere on the internet is a photo of the back of one of his pickups with “500 XXL” written in silver pen. Seymour Duncan not wanting to openly name its competitor failed (or perhaps omitted) to mention the name Bill Lawrence. I have a Washburn Dime 333 in “Blackjack” finish and a buddy of mine who worked at my local shop hooked me up with an L500XL and a ’59 for the neck. That pickup had a TON of gain all on its own. The only thing I didn’t like was that it didn’t clean up when you rolled the volume back, just lessened the grit. But the Clarity was amazing! I could hit a G Major chord, with the distortion cranked, and still hear all the notes making up that chord.

  • Johann Sebastian

    You should have provided us with useful information than copying the literature from Seymour Duncan catalog and put little bells and whistles here and there. Just because this blog is free doesn’t mean you can skimp on quality. I thought I would know more stuff by clicking the Facebook link.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alex.reyes.71216 Alex Reyes

    I have both pick ups the bill lawrwnce and the dimebucker. in my opinion I prefer the Seymour version at the fact that as it was aid you roll off the volume and manipulate the tone of the pick up where the bill Lawrence is high gain in low volumes.